At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays; and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity and beauty into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, combined with larger social themes, drew Wilde to writing drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris, but it was refused a license. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.
At the height of his fame and success, whilst his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde sued his lover's father for libel. After a series of trials, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency with other men and imprisoned for two years, held to hard labour. In prison he wrote De Profundis, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he left immediately to France, to never return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. He died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.
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